Lying fallow: dichotomies and negotiations

Anna-Katharina Laboissière (University of Oslo)

The practice of intentional fallowing, edged out by the advent of synthetic fertilisers in the 19th century, nevertheless continues existing as an object interest in agricultural policy and microbiology in recent years; it responds to a growing concern with the depletion and regeneration of soils in agricultural and environmental policy. Fallowing emerges or re-emerges at points of ecological, economic or social breakdown, functioning variously as buffer, mediator, or destructor. It functions variously as an agricultural technique for weed-breaking or soil remediation, as a wildlife conservation tool, as a microbiological reserve or as a price-regulating constraint. Fallowed soils are the sites of interplaying dichotomies and biopolitical negotiations concerning idleness, unproductivity, and resilience.
In this seminar, Laboissière will present an overview of the first phase of her current research project “FALLOW: Generative idleness and gestures of reparation”, and ask how fallowing practices function as tools mediating different forms of human-soil relationships and allowing the formation of certain kinds of knowledge about soils and soil ecosystems.